Apr 052016

Ela Elap cave tree

I spent the Easter long weekend in Mt Gambier. Four days of uninterrupted diving in sites at every level was a nice change from the usual two day jaunts. The first couple of days I dived with fellow-rEvo diver Tom in Pics, Kilsby’s and the site above, Ela Elap. Ela is a sinkhole site south of Mt Gambier. Unlike Piccaninnie Ponds it has greenish waters and a murky bottom. Ela is known for being cold and it lived up to its reputation – a balmy 18 degrees on the surface gave way to a chilly 11 degrees below 20m.

Bottom trees

We jumped in and spiralled down through the very murky surface layer to the dark water underneath. I took some shots of the tree in Ela a few months back. While I was happy with those photos, I had very limited time to take them before the bubble-driven silt started to rain into the shot. With both photographer and model diving rebreathers, I thought I had a better chance to get shots through clear water.

This time around the water was darker and finding the right settings took some time. The photo above incorporates lights from another buddy pair in the water at the same time as us. The greenish glow of the sun is barely visible in top left. I was up at ISO 800 and a shutter speed of 1/20th to get any ambient light at all. But having worked out my settings we then spent a further 20 minutes trying to find good angles through the branches. The key was big enough spaces for Tom to get into without disturbing the silty branches, small enough branches for the strobes not to be shadowed out, and short distances to allow for even lighting. Nothing like a good challenge.

Once I was happy with the branch shots through the middle of the crown we went for a swim around the sinkhole. Halfway through we discovered this much small tree sprouting from the silty floor. I love the colours in this shot, from reddish branches to greenish-black water. After our circumnavigation it was time to head up into the warmer, dirtier shallows with relief – it was cold down there!

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